Syracuse basketball star Billy Owens and six teammates who were suspended by the school on Friday were reinstated a few hours later by the NCAA in a matter that was more procedural than punitive.
The school suspended the players based upon findings made during a university investigation into possible NCAA rules violations within the basketball program. The possible violations weren't spelled out by Syracuse spokesman Robert Hill, who announced the suspensions and, later Friday, the reinstatements.NCAA spokesman Jim Marchiony said that such eligibility matters are routine, and that the Syracuse case was unique only because it became public so soon.
Marchiony said that Syracuse followed NCAA rules in making the suspensions and then appealing to the NCAA's eligibility staff for reinstatement, and "that action warranted immediate restoration of the players' eligibility."
The eligibility staff is separate from the infractions committee, a five-member group that hears evidence on possible violations and renders decisions on sanctions.
Declared ineligible in addition to Owens were senior center LeRon Ellis, junior forward Dave Johnson, sophomore guards Michael Edwards and Mike Hopkins, sophomore forward Dave Siock and senior walk-on Chandu Carey.
Owens, Johnson, Ellis and Edwards are starters. Owens is averaging 23 points and 11 rebounds a game, Johnson 20 points a game and Ellis 11 points and 7.7 rebounds.
The suspended players were left behind when the Syracuse team left Friday for South Bend, Ind., and a Saturday game against Notre Dame. Upon their reinstatement, they boarded a plane to rejoin the team.
"It was a very troublesome situation, a very nervous situation for all of us," Hill said. "We're glad this part of it is over and that the team is able to go. We expect them to play with vigor."
Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim was not immediately available for comment. Only three scholarship players made the trip to South Bend with Boeheim. They were freshman guards Adrian Autry, the lone starter, and Scott McCorkle, and sophomore center Conrad McRae.
The school began its probe after the Syracuse Post-Standard published a series of articles in December, alleging that Syracuse might have broken several NCAA rules, such as allowing players to receive merchandise, cut-rate use of cars and even cash gifts from boosters.